Your browser is out of date.

You are currently using Internet Explorer 7/8/9, which is not supported by our site. For the best experience, please use one of the latest browsers.

Blog Mass Tort Settlements

Mastering Mass Tort Settlements: Insights from the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Case

Mass Tort Litigation can be very complex and can last for several years. When it’s all said and done, and a resolution has been reached, what happens next? As attorneys, our job is not over until we have guided each client through the settlement process. 

How are Settlements Decided in a Mass Tort?

It is important to remember that mass tort litigation is characterized by the fact that each case is treated individually, despite being handled by the legal system “en masse”. When it comes time for settlement, every case will be evaluated individually on its own merits to determine its settlement amount. Oftentimes, cases with similar injuries receive the same or similar offer, allowing for faster, fairer, and uniform resolution.

There are a variety of methods for establishing settlement amounts. Some of the more common ways for establishing settlement amounts are listed below:

Points-based Determination involves reviewing each case and assigning points based on various factors like age, the severity of the injury, etc. The dollar value of the settlement is then determined by the number of points. 

Category Determination looks at a group of cases as a whole and categorizes them based on similar levels of injury, such as mild, moderate, severe, etc. Each case is then awarded a value set forth for the category to which it belongs.

Grid Determination involves the creation of a settlement grid based on a variety of case factors and then using that predetermined grid to allocate settlement.

Mass tort settlements can vary in terms of how many plaintiffs they include. Generally, settlements can either be:

Global Settlements in which all plaintiffs in a litigation are offered a settlement or,

Docket-Based Settlements in which a law firm is offered settlements for cases in its own individual docket with the defendant, and all other cases against that defendant continue.


Each of these methods often involves the Court overseeing the litigation, as well as various third-party neutrals, called Settlement Administrators, who ensure that the process is fair to all participants. In addition to those safeguards, attorneys representing individual clients also provide guidance. However, the ultimate decision to settle the case belongs to the client. Despite the size and complexity of mass tort settlements, each client retains control of his or her case until the very end.

3M Combat Arms Earplugs Settlement

The 3M Combat Arms Earplug litigation provides the best and most current example of a mass tort settlement. The 3M settlement is an example of a global settlement utilizing the category determination method described above.   

As discussed in prior blog posts, 3M manufactured and supplied the United States military with Combat Arms earplugs to protect the service members’ ears from the loud sounds associated with military training and combat. Defects in the earplugs were found to be responsible for significant hearing loss and tinnitus experienced by thousands of soldiers. LPM has been involved in representing clients against defendant 3M company for the last several years.


The claimants involved in this settlement fall under two different settlement programs:

Expedited Payment:

  • The majority of claimants chose this option.
  • Settlement values in this program were determined by categories of injuries sustained by the claimants.
  • Payment in this program is “first in first out”, meaning those who completed their settlement forms first will be paid first.
  • Payouts are already occurring and will take place over the next 12-18 months.

Deferred Payment:

  • This program is a point-based system, using an 8-prong calculation to determine settlement values.
  • Claimants in the deferred payment program will be paid out over 5 years.

The 3M settlement includes almost 250,000 active and retired military service members and civilian contractors. Due to its unprecedented size and scope, it is expected to take almost 5 full years to complete with payments beginning now and lasting well into 2028.

Driven by Results

Guided by Experience

At Laminack, Pirtle & Martines, we are experienced at navigating the complexities of mass tort settlements, ensuring our clients are empowered and informed throughout the process. 

To learn more about the wide variety of mass tort cases that our firm is involved with, explore our practice areas page

Contact Us